Constitutionally, I mean. Obviously in practice the answer is whenever the manufacturers of rival products can bribe enough politicians.
The EU has banned incandescent light bulbs, and the US is heading in the same direction. In the EU it worse because the alternative technology of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) is subsidized which prevents the superior (to CFL, because of a more natural spectrum of emitted light) technology of LED bulbs from getting a proper market share. But the rationale for banning incandescent bulbs is idiotic. If you try to reduce it to syllogisms you run into several logical gaps.
You also have trouble purchasing a shower head or a toilet with as much of a flow of water as you used to be able to. And there are lots of other examples where the government bans products because busybodies want to exercise petty power by restricting people (that’s not the stated reason of course but the stated reasons can never stand up to scrutiny).
I am asking a legal question here. Due to the externalities associated with pollution, it is economically justifiable to ban, tax, or restrict the use of products which pollute the environment. But this is not that. These product bans are not to prevent pollution.
There is no legal restriction on my flushing my low-flow toilet 2 or 3 times in order to get it sufficiently clean, and no restriction on how many watts worth of CFL bulbs I am allowed to purchase for my house. There is no environmental pollution or impact associated with me turning on a 30-watt CFC bulb in place of a 75-watt incandescent bulb, except in the context of a reduction of OVERALL energy consumption. This is rationing.
Now the government is allowed to ration certain things under certain circumstances, but it is normally going to require an extreme situation like a war or a natural disaster. Americans would not stand for rationing on the basis of crackpot greenie theories about the evils of energy usage or water usage per se, independent of how the electricity or water was obtained (we are not talking about carbon emissions here, even if the insane theory that carbon dioxide is a pollutant were accepted). But we accept the stealth rationing because we are told it is “green”.
Can anyone enlighten me of the legal basis for the Federal Government to ban particular technologies, not because they pollute the environment, but because of a policy decision that overall consumption of something should be lower?
Here is a good response from Germany:
We could definitely get away with this kind of trick in the USA too, if necessary. I don’t mind leaving incandescent bulbs on in the winter because the supposedly “wasted” energy gets transformed into heat which reduces the amount of work my furnace has to do, so I am not losing anything (well, I have a gas furnace so it is more expensive per kilowatt but if I had an electric heating system it would be equivalent). People who get CFCs wil have larger heating bills and will feel colder too (a nice thing about heat from incandescent bulbs is it is localized initially, so if I am reading late at night I don’t mind that the house thermostat is down at 62 degrees F. because the lit room I’m reading in is warmer).
There is a general problem with democracies that no one is sufficiently in charge to put a stop to obvious stupidity like this. I just came back from a few days in California, which has been ruined by exactly this kind of political busybodying, see my comment here. My parents told me that their city now requires recycling of food waste, which means people keep it around in garbage cans for days instead of flushing it, and they started to see roaches in their apartment building within 3 months of the requirement taking effect, after 16 years never seeing one.
I’m not even going to get into, in this post, the economic consequences to the country of banning incandescent bulbs. I just want to know where the legal authority comes from, and what kind of a finding of environmental impact is technically necessary to justify such interventions.